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Willie Benegas

Update: 1/5/2000 World Record Aconcagua Speed ascent by Willie Benegas/North Face  Athlete Team Member

Aconcagua is a mountain in Argentina with a summit that reaches 22,831 feet.  To get a fresh start to the new year Willie Benegas, a North Face Athlete Team member, decided to set a world record speed ascent/descent beginning from the trail head at 8,192 feet.  The total round trip is 54 miles. The following is a brief account of the event: 

Willie left the trail head at 10:30 pm with a pair of Ultra 100 trail running shoes, Notus Jacket, 2.5 gallons of Gatorade, a Walkman CD Player,  and 22 Cliff Shots. It was a moonless night and Willie charged to base camp (13,600) 22 miles away with Vivaldi, his only CD, "rocking all night."  Along the way he took a short break to take 10 Cliff shots. Once he reached base camp he changed into the new Red Point Jacket and Aurora Tights. 

From Base Camp the summit is only 5 miles away but ascends a monumental 9,231 feet.  Still in his Ultra 100's, Willie reaches the peak at 2:40 pm. 

After taking 16 hours, 10 minutes to summit, Willie turned around and began to turn up the speed. He had passed several groups along the way and news of his attempt had spread through Base Camp and along the rest of the trail. As he returned to Base Camp, 200 people were cheering him on. He fueled up with the remainder of the Cliff Shots and reached the trail head at 9:30 pm, 6 hours, 50 minutes from the Summit. After this achievement one might wonder what Willie would do to recover. To that he says, "in the next couple of days I'll be climbing and eating many Argentinian Steaks."  Regarding his accomplishment he adds "no problemaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" 

Previous Updates on Willie Below" 

The Climber: Willie Benegas  

Born and raised in the wild heart of Patagonia, Willie Benegas, along with his twin brother Damien, have pursued a long apprenticeship in the mountains.  As one of the "young bucks" of the world-class North Face team, Willie has pushed his craft on the big-walls of Yosemite, the airy summits of South America, and the loftiest peaks of the Himalaya.

The boundless duo, now hailing from Berkeley California, completed their first major new ascent with a route up Patagonia's West Face of Pilquitron (VI, 5.9, A3) which is still unrepeated.   At 20, they climbed Fitz Roy's impressive Supercouloir as well as routes on Guillaumet and Poincenot.  In the following years, Willie has ticked off the South Face of Aconcagua, a new route on the North Face of Pakistan's Nameless Tower (VII), record speed ascents in Yosemite valley, and attempted major new routes on the legendary North Faces of Thalay Sagar and Jannu.

wil3g.jpg (12288 bytes)

© David Keaton

But simply overcoming technical routes or highest summits is not enough for this 30 year old climber.   He gathers equal satisfaction by introducing others to the wide-world of mountain experience.  To help fulfill this goal, Willie and Damien established Patagonian Brothers Expeditions specializing in South American guided climbs and treks.  They also lead expeditions for Out There Trekking (UK, OTT) in Africa, South America,   and on Himalayan giants such as Cho Oyu.

Willie has many plans for the future, but he often gets the same question; why do you climb?  When asked about the draw of high places, he says "a mountain  adventure will carry over into many facets of your life, teaching about yourself, your co-existence with nature, and respect for other people's cultures."  Willie will be returning to this well-spring of adventure and as a guide on OTT's  Everest expedition this spring in Nepal.

The Boy: Casey Read

In October of 1998, a one-year-old child named Casey Read was hospitalized in California with a rare, and potentially deadly, parasitic disease carried by raccoons - Baylisascaris procyonis ("B procyonis"). Little Casey apparently contracted the rare disease by accidentally ingesting an M&M size amount of raccoon feces while playing outside. Six months later, Casey and his family continue to fight for his survival. caseymed.jpg (19305 bytes)

The Disease

             B procynosis passes to people who accidentally ingest infected eggs either orally, through their nose, or by inhaling. The eggs are often contained in racoon feces hidden in contaminated soil or water. These microscopic eggs are not visible to the human eye and can remain viable for months or years (depending on where they are located). They are protected by a hard outer shell, thus making them difficult to destroy.

             Though extremely rare in humans, the disease can cause significant destruction of the human body. After being ingested, the eggs hatch in the intestine before penetrating its walls and migrating swiftly to the liver. The larvae then move quickly to the hosts' lungs, and typically into the circulatory system (in this case, Casey). Pulmonary hemorrhages are often seen within days of ingestion of the eggs.

As these larvae are larger and more aggressive than the common roundworm larvae found in cats and dogs, their mere migration through the body can cause significant damage as they literally tear through the body's tissue, often injuring the brain and eyes. Though most larvae enter the circulatory system, approximately 5 to 7% of the larvae enter the brain and cause CNS disease, which is the most serious disease caused by the larvae.

             Symptoms of larval infection include drowsiness, confusion, and loss of muscle coordination or decreased head control. The severity of the reaction depends upon the number of larvae ingested. This infection can result in permanent vision or nervous system disabilities. An infection resulting from the ingestion of as little as 46,000 microscopic eggs could result in death. Fortunately, to date, there are few reported fatalities from the disease.

The prevalence of B procyonis in humans is currently unknown. However, the small number of studies conducted in the United States have shown a varying degree of infection among raccoons ranging as high as 94% of all raccoons in certain areas. Unfortunately, as public awareness of the disease is extremely low, B procyonis remains a serious threat to children who play outside.

Casey Read

             After being brought to the community hospital by his parents for what they thought was a mild allergy, Casey's family was devastated to learn that this was no allergy – Casey was infected with a potentially deadly parasite. Casey was promptly rushed to a larger medical center where he was administered extremely strong antiparasitic drugs and megadoses of anabolic steroids over a four week period to kill the parasite, reduce swelling in his brain, and hopefully save Casey's life. Though these drugs could have actually killed Casey, they were the only option.

             Despite the doctors' valiant efforts, Casey's infection caused encephalitis (swelling of the brain), which resulted in total body muscle spasms, blindness and brain damage. Casey's parents and older sister could only wait and pray at Casey's side as he suffered through this painful and traumatic ordeal that has lasted several months. During this time, Casey's family learned the unsettling news that of the five children who had been inflicted with this horrible disease, four died and one remains extremely disabled.

             Today, the Read family has no idea what the future holds for Casey. However, they do know that Casey's vision is severely impaired, and he remains on sedatives and muscle relaxants. Though muscle control is minimal, Casey can drink from his bottle, eat soft foods, suck his thumb and roll over. And fortunately, his hearing is intact. Casey and his family remain optimistic.

Awareness - Racoon Alert

             For others, there are ways to minimize chances of infection, and the Read family and friends have been working hard to get the word out. Small children should stay away from areas where raccoons defecate – often in raised areas with fallen timber, where firewood is stored, near patios and decks, in attics, in garages and other areas adjacent to yards and gardens. Children should also be warned about the dangers of putting dirty hands or objects in their mouths and should always thoroughly wash their hands after playing. Sandboxes and other play areas should be covered when not in use. All direct contact with raccoons should be avoided. 

             If raccoons live in or frequent your yard, consider wearing gloves whenever working with the soil or firewood. Never feed raccoons (no matter how hungry or cute they look), as this will cause them to continuously return to your yard, thus increasing the likelihood of infection. Indeed, in many areas, it is a crime to feed the wildlife. Keep your garbage cans tightly sealed. Finally, discourage raccoons from living in your chimney, outbuildings, attics or under your deck. Please make all efforts to follow these guidelines to avoid the pain and suffering Casey and his family have had to endure.

Hope for the Future

             Casey's plight should not be considered a tragedy. Rather, it is a misfortune that has brought the Read family and friends closer together. We should all place our lives in perspective and cherish what we have and whom we love. Please consider making a small donation to "Caring for Casey" to minimize Casey's daily suffering and assist the Read family's continuous fight against the rare disease that is trying to seize little Casey's spirit and life from them and all of us. Donations are greatly appreciated and can be mailed to:

             "Caring for Casey"
             Monterey County Bank
             542 Lighthouse Avenue
             Pacific Grove, California 93950
             Account # 4101251
             Please put Everest News in the memo part of your check.

The Concern:

             These Parasites have conclusively been found in infants in Florida, Michigan, Seattle, and California. Willie, Casey's family, and Everest News, believe the word needs to get out about this disease. If we can prevent even one more case...one family from having their child die.

Willie's Missions in Spring 1999:

             Willie has dedicated his Everest climb to his father who has cancer and to little Casey. Tax deductible donations can be send to the

             The American Cancer Society
             Fairfield Area Office
             Att: Christian Vargo
             P.O. Box 310
             Newark, Ohio 43058
             Please put Everest News in the memo part of your check.

             Willie is carrying a picture of little Casey to the Summit of  Everest, to help raise money for this little boy and his family.              Everest News asks You to consider these causes in Your giving for the 1999 year.

             Thank You   The Staff at EverestNews.com

If your school, your newspaper, or your group wishes to share this story with the world as You know it. Please contact EverestNews.com at everestnews2004@adelphia.net

Update: Spring 1999 Willie reaches the Summit of Everest !

Update Spring 2002: Willie reaches the Summit of Everest again!  Alpine 8000 Everest 2002 Expedition

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